Douglas dancers celebrate Persian New Year
By David Hollinshead, Staff Writer
On March 20, the Persian New Year or Nowruz was marked with dance and celebration in the concourse of the New Westminster campus. The day not only marked the start of the Persian New Year—with concourse displays, dancing, and images of Persian culture—but also the beginning of spring.
“Persian New Year [has a lot to do with] health,” said a dancer at the event. “We put seven symbols on a table, they all start with S. Each symbol has one meaning. For example, apple: it starts with an S, in my language, and this is the symbol of health. And garlic, garlic starts with an S, another symbol, and it’s another symbol for health. This is wheat, we soak it in water, and after they grow up like this, we put it on the table; it is a symbol for green and nature. This flower, I don’t know what you call it in English, but it is a symbol of beauty, as it starts with S. We put [a] mirror for brightness. You put a goldfish, it is not a symbol but you can put it on the table.”
The two girls dancing wore matching outfits—a fedora hat, a white collar shirt, scarfs, and a skirt. The dance is derived from a story in which a king falls in love with one of his harem girls, and sings a song of grief that he can’t be with her.
“This dance is a traditional dance called Baba Karam, Baba means father, and Karam means grace, it means some guy is so graceful and colourful, it is related to the past, not now. They put on hats and scarfs and a white shirt, and the men all dance together,” said the dancer.
For many of those who observe Nowruz, precluding the celebration of spring equinox is Chaharshanbe Suri, or Red Wednesday—the Iranian festival of fire.
“We celebrate the last Wednesday before the New Year, we call it Red Wednesday,” explained the dancer. “We make fire, and we jump. We have ‘The Day of Nature’ it is called the ‘13 years of spring’. We go out and have a picnic, and for 13 days, you have to go out.”
Nowruz, although a holiday of Zoroastrian origin, is celebrated throughout the Middle East and Islamic world.